Flacco is far from Ravens' biggest problem

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
7:30
PM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw a career-worst five interceptions in the 23-20 loss at the Buffalo Bills. He was the reason why the Ravens flopped at Ralph Wilson Stadium, right?

Flacco signed a $120.6 million contract six months ago. He should be throwing five touchdown passes, not five passes to the other team. But Flacco is hardly the problem.

[+] EnlargeJoe Flacco
AP Photo/Gary WiepertJoe Flacco was sacked three times, hit 12 times and threw three interceptions.
"Joe Flacco is not to blame; I'm going to put that out there," running back Ray Rice said. "He's our guy. Without him, we don't get down the field. Guys need to make plays. Joe is our leader. We've been down this road before. We don't point fingers around here, but the last person I'm worried about is Joe Flacco. He's a Super Bowl MVP. He's a Super Bowl quarterback. As long as Joe goes, we go. You saw it for yourself. As bad as we played, Joe Flacco still led us [to] march down the field and we were that close."

The Ravens still can't run the ball. Their longest run was 7 yards against the second-worst run defense in the NFL.

The Ravens couldn't stop the run. The Bills ran it up the gut of the Ravens' defense. The Ravens were outgained 203-24 on the ground, which underscores how both sides of Baltimore's lines got their tails whupped.

The Ravens couldn't protect Flacco. The Bills hit Flacco a dozen times, and a lot of those drove him into the turf.

And, on those instances when Flacco had time to pass, whom should he target? Ed Dickson and Tandon Doss cannot catch. One interception went right off Dickson's hands. Tight end Dallas Clark has trouble getting consistently open. Marlon Brown (thigh) and Deonte Thompson (concussion) left the game after getting hurt, joining Jacoby Jones (knee) and Brandon Stokley (groin) on the growing injury list.

It's not a stretch to say Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso, who had two interceptions, showed better hands than many of the Ravens receivers. The only receiver Flacco can have any confidence in is Torrey Smith, who will likely draw triple-teams from now on.

Flacco needs to play better, especially when the other team had three starting defensive backs inactive because of injuries. But it's not like Flacco is throwing the ball to Pro Bowl receivers or even experienced ones. Just look at his four top wide receivers Sunday. Two are undrafted (Brown and Thompson) and another was not on the team in the season opener because he was cut (Doss).

No one should take this as absolving Flacco from accountability. If he had been smarter with the ball, the Ravens probably would have won, or at least gone to overtime. His vision and decision-making were as poor as I've seen them.

If Flacco hadn't been picked off in the end zone in the third quarter (he underthrew Smith), the Ravens could have hit a 36-yard field goal, which would've been huge in a game decided by a field goal. And if Flacco hadn't been intercepted on his final pass (it came on third down), the Ravens would've had one more shot to go 15 yards to get into field goal range. In total, the Bills converted 13 points off Flacco's mistakes.

"We are definitely going to get better. We have to get better," Flacco said. "A lot of that falls on me today ... throwing the ball to the wrong team. If we don't do that, this game probably goes a little different."

It's easy to put all of the blame on Flacco. The Ravens have lost their past 12 games when he throws multiple interceptions.

"I believe we have a quarterback that can keep you in any game at any time," coach John Harbaugh said.

The problem is Flacco doesn't have the supporting cast right now to come back on the road this season. He could not in Denver. He could not in Buffalo.

If you really want to fault Flacco for something, it is the fact that the NFL's third-highest paid quarterback could not carry his team when everything else was falling apart around him.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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